Critics have often blasted Blue Note Records’ output during the 1970s, and not without reason, for inconsistency and an overeager desire to flirt with a more commercial sound than during their classic 50s and 60s heyday. Horace Silver’s own wonderfully “far out,” genre-bending, and delightful three-part series of LPs from 1970-72, subtitled “The United States of Mind” , was probably a case in point for purist curmudgeons. Although he was certainly no stranger to commercial success or soul-jazz crossovers (he did write the song “Doodlin'”, after all), the sprawling eclecticism of the three “phases” of the US of M project must have had some Blue Note fans worried that they’d lost old Horace for good. So I can’t help hearing 1972’s “In Pursuit of the 27th Man” as a kind of deliberate return to form. That’s not to imply that it was a reaction to critics: perhaps Silver just felt like it was time to make a good solid hard bop album again after his recent experimentation.
And that’s what he did here, while retaining a lot of the same players from those other records. The Latin jazz opener, Liberated Brother (written by Weldon Irvine), is of the same high caliber as anything on his Cape Verdean Blues from 1966. Recorded during two sessions with slightly different lineups, half the tracks feature the Brecker Brothers on brass and the other half showcase David Friedman on vibes, which is a first for Silver’s bands. On the titular track, we get both at the same time. The interplay between Silver’s piano and the vibes on this song is marvelous, fabulous, and stupendous. The album also features one tune (Kathy) by the great Moacir Santos, then living in the US and who – as Silver mentions in the notes – was just about to make his first Blue Note LP.
This is a very worthwhile offering in the vast discography of one of my favorite jazz pianists and composers, so do give it a listen.
The ambiance of the record as a whole is an adept mixture of taxi fumes and sunlight, as captured by the breezy “Summer in Central Park.”
Hey let’s take a look at Silver’s charming liner notes now. They include lyrics to one track that are, in fact, not present anywhere on the actual recording. So read them and memorize them to recite along at the proper moment.